This post is sponsored by Chevron STEM Zone and includes affiliate links
Living in the Washington, D.C. area, there’s never a shortage of things to do but over the years, our family has developed a list of favorites and one of them is the USA Science and Engineering Festival. I love that the Science & Engineering Festival brings together engineering societies, universities, government agencies, high-tech corporations, and STEM organizations to provide hands-on learning opportunities that make science accessible to everyone. This year I had the pleasure of partnering with Chevron to showcase the meaningful learning at their STEM Zone throughout the weekend. As I watched kids and parents alike have ah-ha moments, it made me think about how I’ve worked to inspire wonder and curiosity to encourage STEM learning in my own two kids.
STEM subjects are often scary to us parents because we come with our own baggage related to the subjects. I personally loved some subjects and despised others. I enjoyed biology, loved the real world applications of physics, but never got the hang of balancing chemistry equations which completely frustrated me. I gravitated towards geometry because it made sense in ways algebra didn’t. The thought of statistics made me yawn but I took it in college and again in graduate school and not only did I discover that I really enjoyed it, I use stats regularly when looking at my site traffic and social media analytics!
Even STEM subjects may not have been our favorites in school or we feel like we don’t know enough about the topics, it’s still possible to support our kids in their learning without our personal bias getting in the way. Here are 6 easy guilt-free ways to encourage STEM learning in all ages.
6 Guilt-Free Ways to Encourage STEM Learning in All Ages
Don’t Worry About Being an Expert
Rather than feeling like you need to be an expert in STEM fields to inspire learning, know that their confidence in the subjects will come from your desire to search out answers together. Foster curiosity by asking questions, explore with your child to find answers, and be willing to help problem solve even if you don’t know what the outcome should be.
Emphasize the Process and Learning Through Discovery
So much of the scientific process is about learning through discovery and these actions provide rich and meaningful learning. Capitalize on the ways that STEM subjects can be brought into everyday life by asking questions about things in their environment that will get them thinking. Inquiry based learning starts by posing questions to help kids better understand the worlds they live in. Chevron and TechBridge encourage parents to ask questions such as these to trigger curiosity:
- How do the gears on your bike work?
- What makes popcorn pop?
- Why do you get dizzy when you spin really fast?
Questions that involve thinking about how things in their environment work will get kids thinking and applying their knowledge in other ways. Guiding them towards thinking outside the box, experimentation, and exploring the “what ifs” is necessary for innovation. Also help them realize that it’s ok to make mistakes as part of the process.
Know Where to Find More Information to Support Your Child’s Interests
There has never been a better time to parent than in the digital age where information is right at our fingertips or accessible through voice commands. When your child has questions about how the world works, a Google search, question posed to Alexa or Siri, and YouTube videos make it easy to find more information about topics our kids are curious about. The internet is a great place to start because you can find what you’re looking for from trusted sources but it’s always fabulous to dive deeper too. Reach out to your local library, college, or university to see what resources they might suggest or if there are upcoming community events to attend. They might also put you in touch with graduate students or a professor who could give you a tour, sit down and answer questions, and would serve as a great role model.
Introduce Your Child to Stimulating Environments
There’s a lot to learn about science and engineering inside and outside of your home but why not go beyond to inspire more learning. We loved the energy at the USA Science and Engineering Festival and the ability to learn through hands-on discovery at the Chevron STEM Zone but if there’s not an event coming up in your area, explore the outdoors. Getting outside and exploring a local park, beach, wetland, or other nature area naturally inspires learning about the environment and the importance of conservation. The Center for Biological Diversity site is a great resource for budding conservationists. It features tips for enjoying nature and wants kids to consider these 3 questions related to conservation:
- What are we saving our environment from?
- Why should I care about the environment?
- Why should I be excited about it?
Help Your Child Think About Their Future
It might be a little too soon to put your block tower building toddler on the civil engineering path but it never hurts to let kids know about the world of STEM careers that exist today. In their guide, Science: It’s A Family Affair, Chevron and TechBridge encourage parents to choose family programs that highlight science and engineering in positive ways. Often times scientists and engineers are depicted as nerdy uncool men but it’s important to show that men and women engage in science and are doing really cool things! Ask kids questions like these when watching shows together to get them thinking about the positive side of STEM careers:
- What science and engineering careers do you see?
- What kinds of problems or issues do scientists and engineers address?
- Do scientists work alone or in teams?
- What hobbies or interests do you think engineers and scientists have outside their work?
Celebrate Discoveries and Learning but Stay Curious
The great thing about ah-ha moments is that they serve as a huge motivator to keep learning. Celebrate successes and missteps alike because they are the fuel to keep kids curious.
Chevron STEM Zone is a traveling clubhouse that features areas where students, teachers, and parents can learn about science, technology, and engineering, and math in hands-on ways. Upcoming STEM Zone events include:
- Kern County STEMPosium in Bakersfield, CA on April 13, 2018
- Energy Day in Houston, TX on October 20, 2018.
For information about Chevron STEM Zone and future events, visit their website.
I was compensated to partner with Chevron to showcase the Chevron STEM Zone at the USA Science and Engineering Festival through live coverage on my social media channels and this blog post. All opinions are my own.